As a naturally disorganized person, I consume any organizing advice I can get my hands on. I love seeing how other people organize everything from their planners, to their cabinets, to their time. What I’ve learned is that until you implement a technique in your own life, you never know whether it will work or not. I can hesitantly say we’ve finally conquered most of our clutter and craziness, and have found a few tips that actually work in our house.
Ready? Here we go! (Short on time and want to cut to the chase? See bullet points at the end of the post!)
It sounds way too simple, and believe me – I wish I had a before picture to show you what a huge difference this really made, but keeping all of our Tupperware lids in a bin together made a huge change in our kitchen.
Before we made this change, I’d open a cabinet and be greeted with clear containers and mismatched lids falling out at my feet. Now, the lids are all neatly organized in a bin that fits them perfectly and the Tupperware containers are all contained inside one another.
Common sense, yep. For me? Nope. I’m telling you, this organizing thing is foreign to me.
We were constantly overwhelmed by how many dishes our tiny family could dirty in just one day. Finally, my husband said “you know, if we get rid of about half of these dishes, we wouldn’t be able to take out a new one every time we eat. We’d have to keep up with them.”
He was so right.
We put away most of our bowls, plates, and cups and haven’t had the same problem ever since.
Nothing lights a fire under your butt to do dishes like needing a clean bowl for cereal and not having one.
Give Me Five
My best tip is to realize how much time it really takes to accomplish a task. I think we naturally look at a chore and assume it’s going to take a big chunk of our day to accomplish, or at least more time than we’re willing to give it right now – so we put it off.
I started setting an alarm for just 5 minutes in each room and would clean up like a crazy person to see how much I could get done in that short amount of time.
It makes a huge difference! My husband now comes home and feels like he was walking into a house that is being taken care of instead of one that is a complete mess. This means a lot to him since his love language is Acts of Service.
Set a timer for just five minutes and focus on one room. I promise, you’ll be amazed at the difference 5 minutes can make!
I don’t know about you, but paper clutter had become the bane of my existence. We get so much junk mail and credit card offers that I had stacks and stacks of papers all over our house.
It was ridiculous.
Finally, we did a deep purge and got rid of absolutely everything we didn’t need (and even a couple of things that we did end up needing…oops).
I vowed to never end up under that paper mountain again!
Now, my husband brings in the mail after work and I pick it up immediately and sort it over the garbage can. Usually, almost all of it is junk that can be thrown away.
Bills that need to be paid are put in an organizer in the living room along with invoices and statements that just need to be filed. I have all of our bills set up so that they pay themselves each week, so it’s very rare that a bill comes in that I don’t already have a plan for, but if it happens, we have a place to put it.
Somehow, just three people can create mountains of laundry.
Our solution was two-fold. To save time, we bought two, three-bin laundry sorters, so we now have 6 separate laundry bins for our clothes and towels. Two are for darks, one is for towels, one is for pastels, another for baby clothes, and finally one for whites.
We’ve committed to doing one full load of laundry at a time. We wash it, dry it, and put it away d*mmit! Don’t let laundry pile up or it will overtake your home in no time flat!
A good rule of thumb is to do one load, start to finish, every single day.
Remember – laundry isn’t done until it’s put away!
Labels – My New Best Friend
A big key to getting organized once and for all is to label EVERYTHING.
This works wonders for me because I have a guilt complex about putting something in a bin that’s clearly labeled for something else.
I have bins and bins of hair products because I stock up every year after Christmas. Having all of my bins specifically labeled gives me the boost I need to say “okay, quit being lazy and put the crap away where it belongs.”
From bins in our kitchen cabinets to drawers in the closet, to shoe boxes in our outdoor storage – absolutely everything gets labeled when it gets put away. This ensures that it has a home with other like things in our house and nothing ends up homeless.
Rules to Follow:
This brings me to my next rule of thumb…a place for everything and everything in its place.
I’m not of the mindset that you need to pick up and hold each individual item that you own and spend crazy amounts of time deciding whether this item has some value to you before you put it away. As my husband and his “work husband” would say – “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”
But, if you come across an item in your home and don’t immediately know where its rightful place is, think of a spot that makes sense. If you honestly can’t come up with something, consider pitching it or donating it.
Everything in your home needs a home of its own. If it doesn’t have one, it needs to go. No exceptions.
The Importance of Laundry Baskets
When things have gotten a little out of control for a few days, I grab a laundry basket and head into one room at a time. I set a timer, throw away anything that needs to be thrown out, throw everything that doesn’t belong in this room into the laundry basket, spend a few minutes straightening up the rest of the room, and then put away everything in the laundry basket as quick as I can.
You’d be amazed at how big of a difference that laundry basket makes.
Otherwise, if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself venturing to other rooms in your house to put things away and wasting tons of time.
Finally, kid’s stuff. We have a 9 cube organizer in our son’s room and it’s made a huge difference in the number of toys scattered around his floor. You can get one just like the one we have here.
I have each bin labeled and I keep specific toys in each bin. One bin is for trains, one is for big cars and trucks, one is for his bowling set, etc. All of his other toys go in his massive toy chest because they didn’t fit in one of these categories.
It usually keeps his room nice and organized, and he knows exactly how to pull his bins to scatter toys all over the floor…so it works just like you’d expect any system to work with a toddler.
A word to the wise – there is only one place you should EVER buy bins for those cube organizers and that’s the Dollar Tree. One dollar. You simply can’t beat that price anywhere else and if you are using them for kid’s things, you know they’re going to get pretty beat up. I regularly see them at Walmart and Target for well over $5 each. That’s crazy pants. Pay $1 and call it a day.
The other organization technique that works for us when it comes to our kids is something I learned from Do It on a Dime on YouTube. I seriously love Kathryn and all of her tips! If you’re not following her, you should be. We use the “no fold” system in our son’s closet and already have a second no-fold system set up for baby number 2.
We use simple Dollar Tree bins that are labeled (see, no exceptions! Label everything!). There’s a bin for shirts, pants, shorts, long-sleeved onesies, short-sleeved onesies, etc. When I’m putting away laundry, I don’t fold anything, I don’t hang anything, I drop it in the corresponding bin and I’m done.
We have 8 bins for clothes and one small one for socks and another for shoes. That’s it.
Oh my goodness what a difference this has made. Think of the time you can save by implementing a no-fold system!
Finally, this technique is more about time management than actual organizing, but I can promise you it’s been a life-changer for me.
Two words – white boards.
Do it cheap: We bought a big white board sheet at Home Depot, had it cut into thirds, and hung two giant ones up on our bedroom walls with the third leaning against the wall for our son to use. I use these things every single day.
They’re perfect for everything from lists of things to do, my husband’s honey-do list, my blogging schedule, packing lists for trips we’re taking, reminders…everything. I seriously put every single thing I need to “brain dump” onto these boards, tackle things one at a time, erase them, and my life is so much more organized for it.
Do I expect you to turn your bedroom into blogging/list-making central like I did? No, but even a small white board can help. Otherwise, if you’re a disorganized list maker like me, you’ll end up with lists and planners galore and no real progress…plus more paper clutter that you’re making yourself.
If you need some motivation (and don’t blush at the sight of curse words easily…don’t say I didn’t warn you!), go to www.unfuckyourhabitat.com and look at the before and after pictures. When I know I need to get a lot of cleaning done, I scroll through a few of those and immediately feel compelled to get my butt in gear and get organizing.
Read my list of how to purge your home. It took us 8 months, but we finished purging 28 years of clutter, possessions, sentimental stuff…you name it.
Finally, if you have kids that can help you organize, here is the book that worked to motivate me through my whole childhood. I’m pretty sure it would still have the same effect on me now.
- Purge first!
- Make a bin in your kitchen for Tupperware lids and use it! Throw out any lids and bowls that don’t have a match
- Put away all bowls, plates, cups, and silverware leaving just enough for your family to use. This will cut down on your dirty dishes – I promise!
- Set an alarm for 5 minutes and impress yourself with how much you can get done in such a short amount of time
- Sort mail over the garbage or recycle bin and make a plan immediately for anything you have to keep
- Get enough laundry bins to sort all of your laundry into individual loads, if laundry is an issue for you. Do one load at a time from start to finish – which includes putting the load AWAY when it’s done!
- Label everything!
- A place for everything and everything in its place
- Bring an empty laundry basket with you when you are cleaning and put everything in it that doesn’t belong in the room you’re focusing on
- Buy a cube organizer for your kid’s room
- Use a no-fold system for all kids’ clothes
- Use white boards for list making!
Do you have organizing or cleaning techniques that work wonders in your home that you can share? Let me know in the comments!
PS…I used to be so disorganized and couldn’t get a handle on time management. Now that I’ve finally conquered my biggest organizing and time-wasting ways, I’m sharing my best tips to get out from under the crazy and live more simply! It’s a topic near and dear to my heart because simple living has given me more time with my little family and has taken so much stress off of my shoulders. Subscribe to Simple Living Mommy and download “8 Ways to Live More Simply” and get started on the journey to a simpler, more fulfilling life right now!